There’s a lot of pressure on teens to “succeed”, and sometimes there’s equal pressure for parents to raise kids that succeed. However, this pressure is leading teens to burn out and falter. You’ve seen the signs that your teen is over-scheduled and stressed out. So now what? There are five concrete ways you can help your teen.
1. Check-In with Your Teen
Neutrally describe what you’ve noticed to your teen and ask them what they think is going on. Your child may have been afraid to let you know they felt overwhelmed and over-stressed. By giving them the space and permission to clue you in, you’ll already provide your child with some relief.
2. Be the Bad Guy
There will be cases when your child doesn’t want to let go of any of their activities. They may genuinely enjoy everything they’re doing. Oftentimes, they feel like they have to perform at that pace in order to be successful and “keep up with the Joneses”. In that case, you’ll have to play the part of the bad guy and make the executive decision to drop an activity. Let your teen pick which activity but make it non-negotiable that something has to go. They may never thank you for protecting their mental health, but you and I will know that you did the right thing.
3. Help Prioritize Their Responsibilities
If your child is on the college-bound track, then give top priority to having enough time and mental bandwidth to maintain good grades. This is, after all, the number one factor in college admissions. If your child is on a different post-graduation path, it may be more appropriate to prioritize other activities that bring your child joy and give them a sense of accomplishment. By prioritizing responsibilities, it will give your teen permission to set boundaries and take a step back when needed. Otherwise, they may feel like they have to keep pushing and pushing until they burn out or meltdown.
4. Foster Time Management Skills
Executive functioning skills are not fully developed in adolescents, and some teens have underdeveloped executive functioning skills (e.g., those with ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder). So, it’s up to parents to help support and foster these skills while their teen is juggling all their responsibilities. One of the basic executive functioning skills needed for success (in high school, college, and life in general) is time management. Help your teen figure out how to best manage their time; this will be different for each kid. And if your child has ADHD or significant executive functioning struggles, then hiring a psychologist with a specialty in neurodevelopmental disorders (like me!) would be very helpful.
5. Lead By Example
Even as your teen pulls away from you, they’re still looking at the example you set. Even if you say all the supportive, empathetic things, your actions send a strong, implicit message to your child. If you’re over-scheduled and never engage in self-care while trying to get your teen to lighten up, chances are, they won’t hear you as loud and clear as you’re hoping. They don’t want to risk disappointing you by not being able to keep the same pace.
Does your stressed out teen need support handling their anxiety or depression? Contact Dr. Crystal I. Lee to see how she can help.